Over the years, I have had the pleasure to work with many developers, some of them who have zealously taken it upon themselves to reinvent English grammar, design new forms of syntax and lexicon, or otherwise abuse the English language into a petrified shell of its former self. We all do this to some extent, and, in many cases, these developers have good reason to do so. However, translation and localization of anything other than the Queen’s English has its difficulties for users and translators alike.
These are some common issues we face as translators that developers are advised to keep in mind.
Word choice, not word AnythingYouLikeItToBe-ify!
Not a word, not a sentence — I care a lot about accuracy in translation, so one of the biggest show-stoppers for me is what we call the “untranslatable” phrases. Usually, this is stuff creative programmers and marketing gurus have pulled from out of their proverbial “backend,” and inevitably involves multiple words pushed together into one. Here I’m talking about things like:
Unless you are Goethe, it is not recommended to combine multiple words into SuperAwesomeWords, even if you capitalize each one. Translators won’t know whether they should repeat your Germanization of the user interface, why it was done in the first place, and in some languages (Chinese, Arabic, etc.) it is not possible to do anyway. One typical resolution is to translate literally (i.e. “Sync that is very selective; Undo the delete command again”), but this often leads to confusing or just plain incorrect translations (“jelly of magic”?). This literal decoupling of words also results in very long translations that, in the English version, may have been purposefully shortened for whatever reason. Continue reading